As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, I use Nikon Capture NX2 to convert my RAW files. This, as much as anything, is a result of inertia. When I first started shooting with a digital camera back in 2003, I made the transition from a Nikon film camera to the D100, a Nikon DSLR, in order to utilize my existing F-mount lenses. At the time, Nikon’s software did a palpably superior job with NEF (Nikon’s RAW format) files than third party converters, including Adobe Camera RAW (part of Photoshop). This is at least in part because Nikon’s RAW files encapsulate a series of proprietary algorithms, and the folks at Nikon know exactly how to decode them. The third party folks, by contrast, have to reverse engineer the file format and that isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.
As time has passed, the distinction between the results obtainable with Nikon’s RAW converter and third party options has narrowed and, arguably, has disappeared altogether. Yes, I could have migrated to something else, such as Adobe Camera RAW, but my attitude was, essentially, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I was already plenty facile with Capture, so why reinvent the wheel? Capture may have been effective, but it was never a very elegant, well-programmed or well-designed piece of software.
In fact, Nikon has a rather well-deserved reputation for putting out lousy software. (In fairness, I’m not sure any of the camera companies handle the software end of things very well, but some are worse than others [COUGH, Nikon, COUGH] and some have been better than others at realizing that they’re not doing very well on the software front (Nikon? not so much). Most Nikon software is buggy, has a relatively (or very) poor user interface, bucks a lot of conventional operating system conventions for no apparent reason and often performs fairly sluggishly. (Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?) And yet, my complaining notwithstanding, I’ve managed to adapt to Capture’s quirkiness and make it work for me.
So what’s the problem? This is the problem. Briefly, Nikon is beta testing a replacement for Capture NX2, called Capture NX-D. The new program is actually a significant substantive downgrade. NX2 is apparently going to disappear, as will support for it. As a practical matter, a fully featured version of Capture will become orphaned software. You may ask why this is a problem, and the answer is that as long as I don’t get a new camera (which would be unsupported by an orphaned program) and as long as I don’t need to change computers/operating systems, there is no problem. And, as luck would have it, I have no plans any time in the foreseeable future to do either. But eventually–particularly on the computer/OS front–something will have to give, so at the very least the clock is ticking, even if nothing needs to be done immediately.
Then there’s this. The long and the short of it is that, if you’ve been using Capture software for RAW conversion and have been saving your edited changes using your original NEFs (as opposed to using copies), you have some real problems going forward. Any saved changes to NEFs using Capture software were embedded in those files (as opposed to being written out as instructions to separate sidecar files, as virtually all other RAW converters do), and at least some of those changes can’t be recognized, edited or undone by any other software–including, at least at this time, the soon-to-become standard Capture NX-D. In other words, your original RAW files aren’t truly original anymore; they were altered when you made changes using Capture and saved the files. The article offers a few suggestions for dealing with this matter, and one choice is less palatable than the next, as Thom Hogan plainly states; the options, he says, “suck.” (Seriously, take a look at the choices one faces and consider how viable they seem to you.)
I’ve been using Capture software for more than 10 years now, and in a sense, I feel kind of lucky. Yes, you read that correctly: lucky. In addition to having four unaltered backup copies of every RAW file I’ve ever shot, I’ve never saved any of the changes that I’ve made in Capture to the files I’m editing. Those changes are written to a TIFF and then opened in Photoshop for further work, and once that happens I’ve closed the original NEF without saving any of the changes. (In that respect, I have five copies of every original RAW file, all of them unaltered.) So the problem outlined above doesn’t apply to me; that’s why I feel lucky. I really feel for anyone whose work has been impacted, however.
But just because I feel lucky this time around doesn’t mean I’m complacent. Some of you may remember my near death experience last October, While I certainly share in the responsibility for the unneeded stress that was experienced (due to an admittedly less than flawless in-the-field backup regimen–which has now been rectified, incidentally), the foundation for the entire problem was–wait for it–Nikon software…and Nikon’s exceptionally cavalier attitude toward dealing with a known catastrophic problem with one of its programs.
In light of all this, I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that the revelations about Capture strike me as yet another example of the (seemingly) never-ending catastrophic litany of problems that have bedeviled Nikon software for ages. There’s no harm–I guess–in continuing to use Capture NX2 the way I’ve been using it (i.e. non-destructively) all of these years, but given that the “new” version of Capture is going to be less functional than its predecessor and the old version evidently won’t be supported anymore, I think this may well be the time to move on to a different RAW converter and simply be done with Nikon software once and for all.
Hi, my name is Kerry Leibowitz. I’m a Midwest-based (I split my time between the Chicago and Indianapolis areas) photographer with a particular propensity for the landscape.
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